The Infilling Of The Holy Spirit
May 26, 1996
日本キリスト教団 大阪のぞみ教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Osaka Nozomi Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA, Translated February 14, 2009
1. Today's Lord's Day is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is the Greek to express the fiftieth day. Pentecost used to be a great Jewish festival. In today's passage of scripture it is translated as "Gojun-sai [the 5 ten day periods festival]." It is the festival celebrated on exactly the fiftieth day from the first Sunday after the Passover Festival. That's why it was called Pentecost (Gojun-sai). What is written in the passage that I read to you today is the events during a certain Pentecost about two thousand years ago.
2. Please look from verses one to four. The following is written there. "When the day of Pentecost came and everyone gathered together as one, all of a sudden, a sound like a fierce wind blowing in was heard from heaven, and it resounded through out the house in which they were sitting. Then, tongues like flames appeared split int two and remained upon each person. Whereupon, everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, and as 'the spirit' caused them to speak, they spoke in the languages of other nations," (2:1-4).
3. Something very marvelous is written. Akin to the miracle narratives of Jesus, we don't clearly understand specifically what kind of manifestation this was. Since this very definitely belongs to the mysteries of God, I don't think we're going to be able to get an understanding of it, so we might as well accept it as is. At any rate, we can be sure that the wind and the fire symbolize the spirit of God. In addition, their inner experience, what happened inside them, is more important than this marvelous phenomenon itself. The scripture expresses it as "Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit." They were filled with the spirit of God. They experienced the overwhelming inner governance of the spirit of God.
4. The events that took place at Pentecost have great significance as the first events during which the promises that Christ gave had been fulfilled. It is the events which we could call the birthday of the church as well. However, the infilling of the Holy Spirit was spoken as a repeatable event. Immediately afterwards in chapter four, they are filled with the Holy Spirit again, (chapter four, verse thirty-one). And not just in the scriptures, in the history of the church, the experiences of persons being filled by the Holy Spirit have been repeated over and over. It is something that has taken place at times fiercely like we see here, at other times quietly, or at times the audience all together, at other times an individual praying alone. It is something altogether proper and "natural" that should happen even [here] in Japan or in Osaka Nozomi Church. It's nothing "special." Paul also says in [his] Epistle to the Disciples at Ephesus the following words. "You must not be intoxicated with alcohol. It is a cause for self-ruination. Instead, be filled with the spirit!," (Ephesians 5:18). The point is this is something anyone of us should seek and hope for.
5. Therefore, when we read today's passage, to read it simply thinking, "What happened there?," is in a certain sense not the correct way to read this passage. Much rather, we should read it asking the question, "What started from there?" So, what started [from there] because of the filling of the Holy Spirit? And what can we in modern times hope for because of the same filling of the Holy Spirit?
6. First of all, the text catches our eye where it says, "Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, and as 'the spirit' caused them to speak, they spoke in the languages of other nations." This [piece] where it says, "languages of other nations" is translated "foreign languages (glossolalia [in Greek])" in other passages of scripture. This is a language phenomenon, which even the later church generally saw it as. At certain times, as in this instance, they are words which other people can understand, in another instance, as Paul expressed it, it was as "the language of the angels," (First Corinthians 12:1), [that is], they are words which nobody can understand. It was seen that way in the fourth century at the time of Augustine and in the sixteenth century at the time of Francis Xavier [the first missionary to Japan], and of course it has been seen that way in modern times, and so it is not unusual.
7. But, some think that how it is recorded, that the text here deliberately said, "languages of other nations," has more than a little significance. [They think that way] because they [also] think it has something to do with the famous event of the tower of Babel, which is recorded in the Old Testament.
8. This narrative, which is found in Genesis chapter eleven and beginning with verse one, is called "primal history," and it is also the concluding section that has given descriptions of the sinful nature of human beings. So [among the hamartiological descriptions in Genesis], the people say, "Hey, let's get famous by building a city with a tower that reaches up to heaven!" So, it is the simple story of when God confuses their words and makes it so that each person's words are unrecognizable by sound. And that city was called "Babel." The word "Babel" comes from the word "confusion (balal [in Hebrew])", explains Genesis.
9. Paying no attention to God but ignoring him, the figure of humankind saying, "Let's build a city with a tower that reaches up to heaven!," hasn't changed a bit through out history. The reality, where each person's words quit getting through to each other and confusion emerges, can also apply, unchanged, to modern times. That is not [necessarily] the reason for there being so many national languages; because even when [people] speak the same language, there are many times when the words don't get through. In some cases the intentions never get through between parent and child. In other words, the terms have no meaning outside [the speaker]. Between husband and wife, the words have no meaning between them. Between boss and the young subordinate, the words are not getting through to each other. Between like-minded neighbors, the words are not getting through to each other. Confusion is emerging in all kinds of places. [People] cannot live together. It is Babel. And it is nothing other than the consequences coming from human hubris.
10. But, the exact opposite from what happened at the tower of Babel happened here. All of a sudden they began to speak in different languages. And the word of God came into all the different foreign worlds. It came among the people foreign to each other. Yet, they were one. While speaking foreign languages, they were no longer Babel. The overwhelming rule of God had visited their hearts. Their various differences were overcome by the infilling of the Holy Spirit and they were made one. As one they gave praise to God. And this actually began at the onset of the events of Pentecost.
11. Last Monday I received an email from a person living in Philadelphia in America. In it was a report that in a certain church in the heart of the city, hundreds of persons from different nationalities and races were assembled together and praising God. This is by no means a common thing. It is amazing. Philadelphia, which he had observed before, was, according to his words, "the most racially divided city." It was a harsh reality. He gave me as an example the cruel treatment a black woman had received when she moved to an area where white people were living. Of course, even though the races were different, the people spoke the same language. But they could not live together. They could not accept [each other]. They could not love. Their words didn't communicate. It was that kind of world. But, since December of last year an amazing work of the Holy Spirit has begun there and he says it is still going on. The email gave me a partial report of it. Through the Holy Spirit God was trying to bring unity to a world disordered and split apart by sin. His work was starting. We can see that work in today's passage, and we can see its continuation even in modern times.
12. What was started through the Holy Spirit? I would like for us to look at two additional things.
13. A great many people had gathered at this [rushing] sound. They had all been gathering in Jerusalem for Pentecost. These folks had each heard from the apostles their own native born languages of their hometowns. The people were amazed and said, "Even though there are among us persons from Parthia, Media, and Elam, ... and there are persons who have come from Crete, and Arabia ... we are hearing them speak on God's great deeds in our own languages," (verses nine through twelve). They heard languages in which [the apostles] "speak on God's great deeds." They heard from persons filled by the Holy Spirit words of praise praising God's deeds.
14. Getting to where somebody turns his or her thoughts to only God's deeds and he or she praises only God's great deeds is not natural by any means; because human beings, everywhere, turn their thoughts more to their own deeds than to God's deeds. That's the typical figure. Rather than wondering what God has done, people are usually more interested in what self has done and in what self has accomplished. Most of the time we are assessing ourselves or our lives like that. And that's not just something on the outside of the church. The same goes for so called fervent Christians, dedicated Christians. They are always only interested in their own deeds, wondering, what me, myself and I have done for God. There are many times when the only thing that gets said, even in being a "witness," whom we hear in different settings, is not what God has done for us, but in most cases, what self has done for God.
15. So then, how necessary is it for a person to be set free from this imprisoning bondage regarding the deeds of self? For, the important thing in a life is not what we have accomplished; because what God has done in us and through us is by far more important. The important thing in the church is not what the church has accomplished for God, but what has God done in the church and through the church; that's what's important. In this way then, it is the filling of the Holy Spirit that sets us free from sticking so hard to our own things we do. There are no exceptions to this.
16. And so there was true freedom and joy in those filled with the Holy Spirit. Some saw it and said, "They are drunken with new wine." The figure of being liberated and filled with joy certainly might have looked like they were "drunk." But getting intoxicated on alcohol and being filled with the Holy Spirit are fundamentally different from each other. There does seem to be times when a person is temporarily liberated from various bondages and burdens by tapping the power in alcohol. Yet, it does not bring true human freedom, and most experience it that way. It is more usually that getting intoxicated brings many a Satan-empowered shackle. And the pleasure in it sort of just disappears with a headache. It never turns out a deep experience of internal joy, the kind that pulls at the heartstrings of life. The filling of joy and true liberation first turn into reality during an infilling from the Holy Spirit.
17. Well, we have seen what actually was started during the first infilling of the Holy Spirit that took place on that day of Pentecost. There was unity among them. There was liberation. There was joy. If I may sum it up, I can probably express it this way, that a manifestation of the kingdom of God had begun through the filling of the Holy Spirit, that a manifestation of the kingdom of God as seen in Christ was started in the church and through the church. The unity, the liberation, the joy, that we see here, in the spirit of God, are all a part of the manifestation of the kingdom of God. Being redeemed by Christ and being made an inheritor of the kingdom of God show what this is. It [shows] that in and through the church God himself has begun, so to speak, [to give] a practical demonstration. Paul puts it like this, "It is God who joined you and us fast to Christ and who anointed us with oil. God pressed his seal on us and has given us the spirit in our hearts as a guarantee," (Second Corinthians 1:21-22). In referring to a guarantee it is a down-payment or deposit. It means that [God] is giving ahead of time a portion of what he will give completely at a later time. By being filled by the Holy Spirit a person experiences the kingdom of God [now ahead of time]. God manifests the kingdom of God inside persons, inside churches [not buildings, but the people]. For that reason then, preaching has power. We do not proclaim the kingdom of God and invite [persons] to the kingdom of God with merely words. The word of proclamation, during the infilling of the Holy Spirit, comes to have real substance in this world of people.
18. It started from that day. It continues even now. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of longing for God himself and earnestly seeking to be filled by the spirit of God. I would like for us to hope for and to be expectant that the splendor of the kingdom of God will be abundantly revealed even in this church by means of [our] being filled with the Holy Spirit.